What you need to know:
- In her memoir memoir Un-Break My Heart, Toni Braxton speaks of mistakes she made in signing a deficient recording contract.
- Her song Un-Break My Heart sold an additional ten million copies from her album.
- In 1997, Toni had won five Grammys, five American Music Awards and three MTV Video Music Awards; yet she returned from her worldwide tour with a debt totalling $4 million.
Toni Braxton's endearing memoir Un-Break My Heart unravels an unprecedented convergence of mistakes she made in signing a deficient recording contract. This led to under compensation after her record sales surpassed 20 million units. The book explores her successful solo career and her inadvertent capsize into debt and bankruptcy, due to her tour costs.
Toni's second studio album Secrets was released in June 1996, and sold 15 million copies worldwide. Her chart-topping single, Un-Break My Heart from the album, was released on October 7, 1996. It sold an additional ten million copies, making it one of the grandest selling singles in history.
Toni's first colossal pay day came in 1996. The day she received her cheque, she sat in delirium and stared at it for six minutes. Unfortunately, the $1.6 million she earned, had to be precisely shared amongst hearty liabilities. She paid her taxes promptly. She then paid commissions to her agents, lawyers, and managers. Payments that deducted at least 25 per cent from her remuneration.
She had $600,000 left and purchased her first house, in Atlanta Georgia. A freshly built four-bedroom upscale palatial estate that was eventually featured in Southern Living magazine. When travelling, she deflected from staying in basic hotel rooms to sleeping in double suite penthouses at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York. She also bought cars for her mother and four sisters.
After all the purchases, she still had $300,000 in her account. Her managers persuaded her and she agreed to engage in a 42 city concert tour, with Jazz saxophonist Kenny-G and open for him before his performances. Sixty per cent of the tour profits would be paid to Kenny-G, since it was his tour, Toni would pocket forty per cent.
Kenny-G’s entourage was uncertain if Toni would perform throughout the tour. So they set up an arrangement to withhold half of her earnings in online payment facility, Escrow. This meant that she'd only be reimbursed 20 per cent of her 40 per cent share of profits, until the end of the tour.
Her record company execs refused to loan her money to fund her expenses for the tour, because they had a personal disagreement with one of her managers. She, thus, took out a business loan from Arista Records for a million dollars.
It had to be repaid at a rate of between $25,000 and $35,000 a week, while she was still on tour. Those payments came from ticket sale earnings. Every week, Toni ploughed the extra profits she received back into the tour. Unfortunately, she was barely breaking even.
To exterminate the excessive acne caused by the strenuous tour, Toni entered a six month prescription for Accutane. A miracle drug for chronic pimples. Her discreet dermatologist informed her about the severe side effects, which would include damage to her foetus if she conceived a child.
Toni scaled her expenses back by several thousand per show. She sold her home in Atlanta and bought a condo in Los Angeles, since she was operating most of her studio recordings here. Regardless of all the cuts, her funds continued dwindling.
By December 1997, her worldwide record sales had generated over $200 million. Unfortunately, she was obtaining a much lower percentage of royalties than a multi-platinum artist is typically paid. She was earning an average of just 35 cents per album sold, a mere fraction. Her record label LaFace, parent company Arista and their German distribution institution BMG, pocketed the rest of the money.
Towards the end of 1997, Toni had won five Grammys, five American Music Awards and three MTV Video Music Awards. Yet she returned from her worldwide tour with a debt totalling $4 million. One of the owners of LaFace, LA Reid, stopped receiving her calls. In December 1997, she sued LaFace and Arista. On 23, January 1998, she filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Music industry officials terminated relations with her. Her American football boyfriend Curtis Martin, walked out on her. She found out she was expectant and terminated the pregnancy due to the damage caused to her foetus by the Accutane drug.
Fortuitously, in January 1999, after LaFace executive Babyface, vouched for her in court, Toni finally reached an agreement with Arista and LaFace and accepted a $20 million settlement cheque.
Due to the magnitude of her legal battle, she had to pay millions in commissions and fees to her agents, managers, attorneys, financial penalties and punitive damages. She also paid over $8 million to the internal revenue authority (IRS) for taxes. Leaving her with $7 million, to disburse at her discretion.
Jeff Anthony is a novelist, a Big Brother Africa 2 Kenyan representative and founder of Jeff's Fitness Centre @jeffbigbrother